Blinds are, in effect, the catalysts of the game of poker. Blinds have a direct impact on the winnings and losses that occur in the game of poker and they affect how a player plays his hand. They can create conservative or aggressive play and can impact if a player ends up being eliminated or not.
Why Were Blinds Created?
Texas hold'em and Omaha poker games are often played without antes. In these cases, players are able to fold their hand without placing any bets. The blinds are a forced bet which in effect, creates a cost for participating in the game.
How Much are the Blinds?
The amounts of the blinds vary between games, but typically the small blind is half the size of the big blind. If the big blind is an odd number, the small blind is generally rounded off. For example, if the big blind is $5, the small blind will be either $2 or $3, as opposed to $2.50. This is especially in casinos where you don't typically find $0.50 chips.
The amount that the blinds have to put out depends on the betting structure of the game you are playing. In a $5/$10 no limit or pot limit poker game, the small blind is $5 and the big blind is $10. This is not the case in fixed limit games. In a $5/$10 fixed limit poker game, the big blind would be $5 and the small blind would be half that amount, or $2.50.
Who Posts the Blinds?
The blinds are posted by two of the players. The player to the left of the dealer places the small blind while the player to the left of that player, places the big blind. The person who is sitting to the immediate left of the player who posted the big blind is the first player to bet in the first round of betting. The blinds that are posted by these players count towards their bets in the first round. In other words, if the pot is not raised in the pre-flop round, the small blind will only have to contribute half a bet in order to call. The big blind won't have to add anything more to the pot, although he will have the option of raising his own blind.
Blinds in Poker Tournaments
Blinds are used in tournaments for very important purposes. As in ring games, they are used to ensure that the pot is contributed to by the players. In addition, however, in tournaments the blinds are used to determine the length of each round of betting and by how much the blinds will increase per round. The amount of the blinds and blind structure is agreed upon before the tournament begins. As the blinds increase, the players will require more chips in order to stay in the game. Eventually, unless the player is winning more chips, the blinds will use up all of his chips and he will be eliminated from the tournament. If a player has a small stack of chips, he will be forced to play aggressively in order to stay in the game. Increasing the blinds per round also ensures that the majority of players do not have a large pile of chips relative to the blind level. In typical poker tournaments, the blinds increase by between 25% and 50% per round.
The Disadvantage of the Blind Position
The least profitable position in a poker game is the big blind position. The player who players the big blind has the advantage of being the last player to act in the pre-flop position, but they are still forced to place the big blind bet and they generally end up being out of position for the remainder of that hand. The only situation when it is not the case that the big blind player will be out of position during play, is if all the players in the game fold and the big blind is left playing only against the small blind. This is an unusual situation, however.